Trash to Treasure | Upcycled Mixed Media Tray

Trash to Treasure | Upcycled Mixed Media Tray

Posted by DecoArt on May 25th 2020

Do you know situations like this too? You want to do some quick relaxed crafting and find your workdesk is way too crammed to start right away - so you need to use the dinner table in the living room? Or you want to do a little crafting in a beautiful and shady spot in your garden and use quite a variety of products and paints? 

In that case a little self-made tray (made from a wooden fruit crate from the supermarket) is a helpful tool to carry your paints, brushes, pens, and other tools and media safely to your temporary crafting spot in one go. 

Also up-cycling trash to turn it into treasure and have it carry your very own personal artsy style is a very rewarding and inspiring thing to do. And these trays also make for a beautiful unique personal gift that can be used in so many different ways. 

So why not give it a try? It‘s really easy and great fun!

Items Needed:


Step 1: To prime my fruit crate I applied two thorough layers of Americana Decor® Chalky Finish™  in the Vintage color paint and let each layer dry before I added the next. I used a soft flat brush to add quite thick layers of paint and spread these evenly.

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Step 2: Using the smallest of the three stencil brushes from the DecoArt® set,  I used Americana Decor® Chalky Finish™ paint in "Rustic“ and some of my favourite Andy Skinner stencils, I added industrial style images, words and numbers to the crate‘s base and on the outside around the four sides.

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Step 3: Next I added a lot of random texture and imagery using various texture pattern stamps and black archival stamping ink for more depth.

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Step 4: With a white acrylic paint pen I drew a kind of white shade behind my focal stencilled elements in the crate‘s centre. Once the ink had dried I went in with the very tip of a small, bent palette knife and spread some DecoArt Media® Crackle Paint in WHite here and there, varying in thickness and making sure I partially covered up some of the stamped patterns or images that I found were too bold and drew the focus off the central stencilled image. 

This technique is always a good way to visually fuse or know back different layers and unify a design. 

I let the Crackle Paint dry naturally.


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Step 5: Once the crackling process had finished I added a very thin wash of DeccoArt Media® Fluid Acrylic™  in Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide to the whole crate - my first step in making the tray look weathered and more grungy.

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Step 6: For an even more weathered look and for better definition of all the edges and corners I used DecoArt® Student Acrylic™ Paint in Raw Umber and a detail brush to add some shading to all the inner edges. To smudge the applied acrylic paint I simply loaded my brush with clear water in a second step and spread the still wet paint. 

It really is important to only do small areas at a time so the painted line does not dry before you get to finish the smudging part!  For all the other edges I used brown archival stamping ink and a piece of blending foam to highlight these.


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Step 7: Adding sprinkles and larger droplets of paint also is a good way to make a project look weathered and worn. I love to use my almost empty DecoArt® Mister in Carbon Black for that – I simply unscrew the nozzle and use the paint from the lower end of the tube to directly sprinkle that onto my projects. I also used the leftovers from the Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide wash from step five and created larger drops by holding a heavily loaded brush upright and tipping its end lightly.

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Step 8: Using a small detail brush and  DecoArt Media® Fluid Acrylic™ in Prussian Blue Hue in watercolor technique I shaded the focal image to create additional depth and interest. 

Then I used the leftovers of the Prussian Blue Hue to create more paint stains. I used a kitchen roll to dab back where I had added too much paint.


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Step 9: I found my tray still lacked some contrast and depth, so I added some stamped on scratch patterns with Americana® Premium™ in  Quinacridone Gold Hue.  To do so I spread a bit of the acrylic paint with a small brayer on my non stick craft mat and dipped the stamp into the paint. 

I only used part of the stamp‘s image and did not mount the cling stamp to an acrylic block for more flexibility.


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Step 10: Time to create the handles to turn my crate into a tray! I used a small hand drill for the holes (which I measured exactly to make sure they were right in the center). Then I cut two pieces of about 27 cm ( approx. 10 ½ inch) lenthg from sturdy black wire and fixed them to the tray as shown in the lower close up image.

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Step 11: To make my tray resistant to any paint or other stains from usage, I sealed it with a coat of Americana® Acrylic Sealer- Matte.

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Step 12: The final step – the "fine-tuning“ as I like to call it. 

I checked the design‘s look so far and found it still lacked some interest and a visual "frame“ - so I went in with more Americana® Premium™ Acrylic in Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide and Quinacridone Gold Hue and painted the top edges of the tray‘s sides and corner pieces to repeat the colours I had already used in my design.  

This might seem a rather small addition - but with a huge impact. It really was what made my tray look all done and complete.


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I have already used my new tray a lot – and it does its job really well and looking at it is uplifting and inspiring.  (I guess I won‘t be throwing away any fruit crates in the future ;) 

Happy crafting!


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